Early this spring, I began seeing them everywhere. These bright, beautiful orange flowers that lighten up even the darkest of days. I knew they were the state flower of California, but somehow, I had believed they were less common. Like the Lady Slipper, the state flower of Minnesota, my birthplace and home until last year.
In reality, California Poppies are almost weeds. At least here in the San Francisco Bay area. And that’s a gift, not only in terms of their inherent beauty, but also because they’re good medicine.
I’m guessing that most of you, when you hear the word poppy, think of the opium poppy. Which has a long history of herbal medicinal use, but also has highly addictive properties, and contains key ingredients for making the drugs opium and heroin. California Poppies are members of the same Papaveraceae family. However, unlike its powerful cousin, the California Poppy is much more laid back. Its sedative properties are useful for promoting restful sleep, and its anodyne and antispasmodic properties offer pain relief without the addictiveness associate with many pain medicines.
There are numerous other physical benefits this plant offers, but I want to speak about something a little more intangible. One of the properties of the California Poppy is that it’s hypnotic. And that’s kind of how I have experienced the flowers in person.Their brightness is so inviting, to the point where if I look long enough, I sometimes feel like I've disappeared. And there's nothing left but pulsating orange.
The entire plant has a velvety feel to it. Very soft and pleasing to the touch. When I come upon a field of them and I feel them drawing me inward, reminding me that below the muddy, often conflicted surfaces of our lives is a perfect jewel of infinite joy. Always there if only we’d remember to tap in.
The healing we receive from the plants of the earth isn’t always in a physical form. California Poppy is one of those plants that can lift and enlighten just by its very presence. What a gift these fellow beings of the earth truly are!